Lignin as an antistatic additive for common polymers
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Static electricity is a common phenomenon that can causes million-dollar loses in industries such as polymer, air and space, and drug manufacture due to the detrimental effects of electrostatic discharge of the accumulated charges on surfaces. Doping of the materials, i.e. polymers, with antistatic agents can reduce or prevent these problems. So far, the antistatic additives used were chosen to make the final material/composite conductive to dissipate the surface charges, by either directly doping with conductive materials (e.g. metals or carbon powder), or by doping with additives (e.g. ions) to increase surface humidity. The doped materials usually lose their inherent properties such as the mechanical properties because of the high concentrations of the additive. To provide a more universal solution to this problem and avoid the changes in the material properties after doping, the mechanism of static charge formation, which has been on debate for many years, should be clarified. Recent studies of our group and others have shown that the main mechanism behind the charge formation on electrified (polymer) materials is the bond-breakages on the surfaces of the materials, which lead to mechanoanion, mechanocation, mechanoradical active ends. The former two accounts for the charge on the surfaces and, as we have shown, the latter group (mechanoradicals) stabilizes the charged species. Previously, in our group, it was shown that by removing the mechanoradicals with radical scavenger antioxidants one can destabilize the charges – doping with antioxidants makes materials antistatic. However, the scavenger antioxidants we had used in this example to show the antistatic behavior were far from being practical in use for general polymers -that are produces in millions of tons per year- because of their individual prices. Lignin is the world’s second most abundant polymer. It has antioxidant properties, so it is a good candidate as an antistatic agent for common polymers. In this study we assess the lignin’s antistatic action by doping it into common polymers - elastomers (silicon rubber) and thermoplastics (PE, PP, PVC), and comparing the accumulated net charge on the doped and undoped polymers upon contact electrification. It was shown that the increase in lignin concentration and decrease in particle size of the lignin enhances the antistatic property in the polymers, due to an increase in radical scavenging OH groups, as verified by 31P-NMR analysis. We certify that the antistatic property is because of the radical scavenging action and not by increase in the surface conductivity. By doping polymers with cheap and abundant lignin, we provide a more universal, environment-friendly method for preventing electrostatic charge accumulation on common polymers, which are produced in millions of tons per year.